A major clash is underway between the German constitutional court and the ECB and ECJ which could threaten the future of the EU.
By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard and cross-posted from the Daily Telegraph.
Step by step, the EU institutional machine is making the same mistake with the German people that it made with the British people. It is taking a law-abiding and well-meaning nation for granted.
It is treating the legitimate sensitivities of a large net contributor with disdain and playing fast and loose with constitutional law. The European Court (ECJ) has acquired the habit of claiming powers that are not rooted in any Treaty text, advancing Monnet federalism by an odd mixture of bravado and stealth.
The EU assumed it could get away with this because the German policy class has been broadly complicit – up to a point – but Europe has now run into the unyielding resistance of the German constitutional court, the defender of the post-War Rechtsstaat, and the body that likes to think of itself as the “people’s court”.
Outgoing chief justice Andreas Vosskuhle told Die Zeit that the crimson judges of Verfassungsgericht in Karlsruhe speak for the “normal people” of Germany, the hard-working souls who rarely complain and are forgotten by the grievance industry. He pointedly stated that the court is the counterweight to “liberal elites”.
His explosive judgment on May 5 was a double shot across the bows of the European Central Bank and the European Court. “The constitutional court has found that the actions and decisions of European bodies overstep their legitimate competence, and therefore have no validity in Germany,” he said.
The tone was astonishingly brutal. The court ruled that the ECB had “manifestly” breached the principle of proportionality with bond purchases topping €2.2 trillion, and had strayed from the monetary realm into broad economic policy without legal authority. It said the ECJ’s rubber-stamp ruling in favour of limitless QE was capricious, “incomprehensible”, and ultra vires. “It is a declaration of war. The ruling is very dangerous for the European Court,” said Professor Franz Mayer from Bielefeld University.
The language was volcanic but that was precisely the point. Whether or not the Verfassungsgericht is right about the technicalities of monetary policy is irrelevant in the larger story of Europe. The ruling is a primordial scream from deep within the German nation. “The court knew what they were going to do in unleashing this judgment,” said Martin Schultz, ex-president of the European Parliament and a zealous EU integrationist. “They have damaged the European legal order and must now live with the reproach.”
On the other side, Polish premier Mateusz Morawiecki called it the “most beautiful judgment in EU history”. It puts bossy EU commissars back in their box and vindicates the souverainiste ideology of his Law and Justice Party.
Brussels now seems determined to escalate. Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen – a German but all the more eager to prove herself European – reasserted the full, unbridled EU claim to legal supremacy, and vowed infringement proceedings against Germany…